Bosnia Police Station Attack Raises Ethnic Tensions

Balkan Insight
Publication date: 
Apr 28 2015

Police and security agencies increased security levels after the attack on a police station in the eastern Bosnian town of Zvornik on Monday evening which left one policeman dead and two injured.

The attacker, who was identified as Nerdin Ibric, a Bosniak born in 1991, was also killed in the shootout with police officers.

“For all those who believed that something like this could not happen in Republika Srpska, here, it happened now,” the Interior Minister in the Serb-dominated entity, Dragan Lukac, told media.

“I am afraid this could be a start of much worse events in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We should undertake all measures to protect our citizens and institutions,” he added.

Lukac and other Republika Srpska officials told media that the attacker, a local man from Sapna near Zvornik, parked his car in front of the police station and got out of the vehicle armed with a rifle and other weapons. He immediately started shooting at policemen while shouting “Allahu Akbar [God is the greatest]”.

After policeman Dragan Djeric was shot, other officers killed the attacker. The two policemen who were wounded were treated in Zvornik hospital where their condition was said to be stable.

Another suspect, identified only by the initials A.F.H., was arrested on Tuesday and two locations in the Zvornik area were raided as police tried to find evidence connected to the case.

The incident was among the most serious in Bosnia in many years and raised tensions further amid an already fraught political situation in the ethnically-divided country.

It came after main Serb and Croat parties held congresses to elect new party leaderships over the weekend and reiterated that their respective strategic goals over the next four years will be the separation of Republika Srpska from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the establishment of a separate Croat entity within the country.

In response, international officials stressed that these scenarios would violate the Dayton peace accord that ended thev 1992-95 war, while experts warned that such unilateral moves would probably result in new ethnic violence.

“Is this the reason for the attack on them; has Nerdin Ibric carried out the first blood vengeance in Bosnia and Herzegovina?” the Saff magazine asked in its article.

The president of Republika Srpska and the re-elected leader of its main party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, Milorad Dodik, used Monday’s incident to again slam Bosnia’s state institutions.

“It is clear that this attack was motivated by religous and terrorist reasons and that this was a terrorist attack,” Dodik told media.

“We had no indications about the terrorist attack. This shows how the security structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina functions and how many potential 'sleeping' terrorists there are, who are ready at any moment to commit a terrorist attack anywhere,” he said. 

Bosnia's Security Minister, Dragan Mektic, said however that the state Intelligence-Security Agency, OSA on Friday had indications of a possible terrorist threat but did not have any details about when and where it could happen.

“We have to finally admit that we have serious terrorist threats, dangerous terrorists who are ready for terrorist acts,” Mektic said. 

“Either we beat terrorism or terrorism beats us,” he said.

During the night, the premier of Republika Srpska, Zeljka Cvijanovic, held an urgent session of the government in Banja Luka which decided to increase security across the entity, especially in public institutions such as schools and kindergartens to prevent more attacks and to thwart retaliation against Bosniaks and their property in the entity.

Following the attack, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic offered condolences to the family of the killed policeman and financial and intelligence support to Republika Srpska.

“This is horrible news for both Serbia and Republika Srpska,” he said.

Bosnia’s High Representative Valentin Inzko told the main Federation TV station, FTV, that Monday’s attack in Zvornik was strong warning that Bosnia’s institutions need to better coordinate their work.

“Now is the time for cooperation, it is not the moment for divisions,” Inzko said.

The Islamic Community in Bosnia strongly condemned Monday's attack.

One of its leaders in Zvornik, Mustafa Muharemovic, told local media that the Islamic Community in Bosnia does not support violence. He added that after the incident, he fears for the safety of Bosniaks who live in Republika Srpska.

The most recent major attacks in the country before Monday’s incident were a bomb blast at a police station in central Bosnian town of Bugojno in 2010, in which one officer was killed, and a shooting at the US embassy in Sarajevo in 2011 in which one policeman was wounded. The perpetrators of both attacks were convicted and jailed.